There was palpable tension early hours of Tuesday when commercial Motor Cycle Operators, popularly called Okada Riders lock down the commercial presence of Ilorin Metropolis.
About a thousand commercial motorcyclists (okada riders) embarked on an uplanned protest against extortion and brutality by Security Agencies in Ilorin, Kwara state capital.
The irate protesters accused the Trafic warden arm of the Nigeia Police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence and officials of the Kwara Traffic Management Agency (KWATMA) of alleged extortion and llegal arrest of their members.
The protesters who accused some of the executives of the Commercial Motorcyclists Association in the state of conniving with the police to extort money from members said that todays protest was sparked off by the unruly and uncivil action of the Trafic wardens in injuring an Okada rider simply because the wanted to arrest and extort money from him,
The eye witness said that the Police vehicle double crossed the Okada rider and eventually caused him to fall and was injured on his legs, after which other riders in sympathy and bottle up anger chased the Trafic wardens away as well as the KWARTMA officials who were on duty at the post office as at that time.
In their protest, the Okada riders who destroyed several traffic control stands on their way as they marched from Post Office to the Police ‘A’ division, KWATMA headquarter near ITC, Gaa Imam area, Maraba, Ibrahim Taiwo road and the general hospital roundabout causing panic and traffic gridlock.
An Okada rider who spoke under anonymity said: “these people stop us at will any time and extort various amount from us ranging from N1,000 and N1, 500 before releasing you. You cannot go scot free. ”
“Besides, Civil Defence Corps members and Kwara state Roads Traffic Management Authority (KWARTMA) officers are working in close collaboration to milk us dry.”
One of the protesters who gave his name as Damilola Samuel said Okada riders are not touts but lawful Nigerians seeking to make a living out of riding adding: “many of us are graduates but because of the economic situation we have taken to Okada riding. Some of us too are skilled in one trade or the other. What is worrisome is the connivance of some of our executive members with the police.
“We gathered that some of these policemen are using the money they get from us for daily contributions and monthly contributions to cooperative.societies.
He continued, “As a result of the connivance of some of our members we have resolved
from today not to pay N50 daily as ticket to our association, as the association cannot defend us. If the police cannot secure us with jobs they should stop discouraging us. We are out to get money to fend for our family members.”
When contacted, Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in the state police command Ajayi Okasanmi said the information of police extortion and brutality was getting to him for the first time.
He however, added that the state Police Commissioner Kayode Egbetokun had launched investigation into alleged extortion by some members of the command.
Said he: “As you are aware the commissioner addressed reporters shortly after assumption of office warning officers and men of the command against misdemeanor of any kind especially on the highways. During that briefing the commissioners gave out three phone numbers with which members of the public could contact the command on police misbehavior on the highways.
“The Okada riders never explore this avenue before taking to the streets vandalizing properties and obstructing free flow of traffic as well as debarring Kwarans from going about their lawful businesses.
Okasanmi, therefore, appealed to the aggrieved okada riders to go about their normal duties as the command has heard their complaints and would be dealt with accordingly.
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